Inside the new cafe bringing a true taste of Italy to Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens

A new cafe is bringing a true taste of Italy to the heart of Sunderland.

Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 4:45 pm

With its indoor windows looking into the Winter Gardens and terrace overlooking Mowbray Park, the coffee shop at the Museum and Winter Gardens has some of the best views in the city.

The site had stood empty since Holmeside Coffee closed in the New Year, but it’s been brought back to life by Bennelli’s, a classic Italian cafe serving up cannelloni, panini, gelato and more.

Couple Rebecca Bennelli and husband Alex, who hails from Rome, have years of experience in the hospitality industry, having previously ran Bella Mamma in Neville’s Cross, Durham, and the former Bistro By The Sea in Roker.

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The new Bennelli's
The new Bennelli's

But, wanting to spend more time with children Giorgia, nine, and Francesca, four, they started looking for a cafe venture, instead of having to continue with the long hours of the restaurant trade.

Rebecca said: “We live in Pallion so we definitely wanted a unit in Sunderland. We looked all over, at places such as Stack and the units at the seafront, then we saw this place and it was exactly what we had in mind.

"We wanted a very family-orientated site, as we wanted it to be a place for all age ranges.”

The Bennellis have put their own stamp on the place with bright sofas and local artworks, a gelato kiosk and a food menu with regularly-changing specials, such as bruschetta, lasagne and vegetable cannelloni, as well as a dedicated kids’ menu.

Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens. Owners Rebecca and Alex Bennelli.

Drinks also have an Italian flavour, with options such as Limoncello Spritz, Peach Bellini and Moretti on draught.

Rebecca said: “We want it to be a very relaxed, informal place where people can bring their kids after a trip to the museum, or pop in for a cocktail or a draught lager on the terrace.

"Everything is made fresh to order and we’ve had great feedback so far, people seem really happy to see the site back open and happy with what we’ve done. We’ve even had a couple of regulars from our old Durham restaurant come and visit, which is lovely.

"I think there’s so much we don’t appreciate in Sunderland, but we’re so lucky to have an outdoor space like this in the middle of the city centre.”

Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens.

Bennelli’s is currently open within the museum hours of Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm, but as it has its own entrance there are plans to open beyond those hours with antipasti and wine nights, and other events.

The cafe is the latest new addition in the city centre, which in recent weeks has also welcomed new openings such as Cafe 1851 in Mackie’s Corner, Undisclosed in the former D’Acqua in John Street, Spent Grain in John Street and bars Street Bar and Halo in Low Row.

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Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens.

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Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens with co-owner Alex Bennelli.
There's a range of panini available
Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens.
Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens.
Inside the new Bennelli's cafe at the Winter Gardens.